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PESTICIDE SAFETY AND POISONING

If you are using pesticides yourself or hiring a pest management professional, you should be aware of the safety precautions that need to be followed as well as signs and symptoms of pesticide poisoning. If you are using the pesticides yourself, the reason is self evident. If you are hiring a pest management professional, you should also be aware of these things because the industry, although the certification process levels the playing field a little, is still filled with poorly trained and incompetent service technicians that may not follow safety protocol or may overuse pesticides.
The most common problem with pesticides for the general public is the overuse of them. For pesticides available in your local hardware store, the manufacturers add an ingredient that creates an odor when it is used. The intent of this odor is to prevent the overuse of the product. Therefore, while using these products, and the smell gets to be too much, stop using the product and get out.
Restricted use pesticides are available without this ingredient because the pest management professional has had the training to know how much pesticide to apply before it gets dangerous for him/her or the consumer (you and your family). However, because there is no odor and because the competency level varies within the industry, pest management technicians may apply too much pesticide. Therefore, below are the symptoms for pesticide poisoning and the remedies for them. Look for these symptoms with the professional, your family, and yourself whenever pesticides are used around your home or business.

SYMPTOMS OF PESTICIDE POISONING

Type of Pesticide
Symptoms
Antidotes / Comments
Organophosphate
Mild Poisoning
Fatique
Headache
Dizziness
Blurred Vision
Heavy sweating
Too much salivation
Stomach cramps or diarrhea
Illness may be delayed, but if symptoms appear more than 12 hours after exposure, then probably not pesticide poisoning. Check with physician to be sure.
Organophosphate
Moderate Poisoning
Unable to walk
Weakness
Chest discomfort
Muscle twitches
Constriction of eye pupils
Earlier symptom more severe
Organophosphate
Severe Poisoning
Unconsiousness
"Pinpoint" eye pupils
Muscle twitches
Secretions from mouth and nose
Breathing difficulty
Death if not treated
Carbamate Same as with organophosphates
but are easier for doctors to
treat for. Therefore, they
are considered safer than
organophosphates.
Same as with organophosphates
Chlorinated
Hydrocarbons
Headache
Nausea
Vomiting
General discomfort
Dizziness
Convulsions
Convulsions may occur without other symptoms and coma may follow convulsions
Fumigants
Poor coordination
Slurring words
Confusion
Sleep
Fatal dose can be absorbed before symptoms appear
Inorganics
Stomache pain
Vomiting
There are often no direct antidotes for these toxicants
Pyrethroids These are generally safe
but allergic-type reactions
similar to hay fever or
asthma can occur
Prevention seems to be the best way to prevent this poisoning. There is usually no need for antidotes.
Anticoagulants Intense stomach pain
after consuming orally.
Vitamin K, or K1, is an antidote, but should be administered by a physician. Vitamin C may also be useful. In severe cases, fresh whole blood transfusions may be needed.
Non-Anticoagulants Similar to anticoagulants If recently consumed (within 3 hours), induce vomiting.

BASIC FIRST AID FOR PESTICIDE POISONING

First aid, as the name implies, is aid that comes first. It is important that the following information be used as a guide only. But, first things first. (Please note that if you do not know some of these procedures, that you should learn them, otherwise, you will need to find someone who does)
FIRST: Be sure that you are not putting yourself into danger. If the victim is on the road, be sure you have someone stop traffic so you can get to the victim safely. If the victim is inside an enclosed area with pesticide fumes, then you should either wear a respirator mask or completely open the doors and windows. If you need to remove the victim from the building, stay low, after the area is ventilated, and remove the victim.
SECOND: Give mouth to mouth resuscitation or CPR if needed. (no breathing or no pulse)
THIRD: Stop the exposure. This may mean removing the victim from the enclosed area. It may also mean washing the pesticide off or removing the contaminated clothing if the pesticide spilled on them.
FOURTH: Get medical help as soon as possible. If the victim is in severe condition, then an ambulance should be called immediately. If there are multiple bystanders, then you should send someone before doing anything else.
FIFTH: Read the label on the pesticide container. Federal law demands that manufacturers put first aid procedures on the label of any pesticide container and it can be a valuable source of information for you and the physician.

SPECIFIC SITUATIONS

If pesticide is swallowed:
Rinse mouth out with plenty of water
Go to physician immediately
If, and only if, the pesticide label says to do so, induce vomiting by giving the victim some syrup of Ipecac or by sticking your fore and middle fingers down the victim's throat. CAUTION: Never induce vomiting of an unconscious person and some pesticides may cause more damage if you induce vomiting. Therefore, only induce if the label say you should and if the victim is awake.
If pesticide is splashed in the eyes:
Hold eyelids open and wash with a lot of clean running water
Continue rinsing for at least 15 minutes
Do not use chemicals or drugs in rinse water
See a physician immediately
For chemical burns to the skin:
Wash skin with large amounts of water for 15 to 30 minutes
Remove contaminated clothing, wearing rubber gloves so as not get chemical on your hands
Cover burned skin with gauze or loose clothing
Avoid ointments, grease, powders, or other topical treatments
Treat for shock
For inhaled poisons:
Remove victim to fresh air, being careful not to become a victim yourself
Open all door and windows
Loosen tight clothing
Perform Artificial resuscitation if needed
Keep victim warm
If victim is convulsing, keep in a semi-dark room and avoid jarring or loud noises
The most important thing to remember is that you must act in a poisoning situation. The first reaction that most people have is to stand there in shock. This may be only a few seconds, but seconds may count in a severe poisoning situation. In a not-so-severe situation, but you, or someone you know, is showing signs of pesticide poisoning, then you should go to the physician or hospital immediately.

ONE FINAL NOTE: I am in the pest management business. We handle pesticides on a daily basis. Most pesticides are relatively safe, especially if they are used properly. But, they are, at least to some extent, poisonous, or they wouldn't work. Use them carefully or hire someone to use them, but do not dismiss them outright. Without pesticides, pests would overrun us. See Why Pest Control for more information.

If you have any questions, please ask Pestdude! pestdude@triad.rr.com

See also:
CHOOSING A PEST MANAGEMENT PROFESSIONAL